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New study uses local participants to look at aspirin use in older adults

PITTSBURGH — We've long heard that an aspirin a day can help lower the risk of heart disease. A new study using participants from Pittsburgh suggests that isn't always the case.

A study just published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows results that surprised the researchers involved. A daily low-dose aspirin pill had no effect on the life span of healthy older adults. We talked about the results with Dr. Anne Newman, the principal study investigator in Pittsburgh.

"People who took aspirin and people who did not take aspirin had an equal likelihood of having a long healthy life," Newman said.

The study looked at 19,000 people worldwide, including 178 people from Pittsburgh. Researchers found no health benefit for healthy older adults, but a slightly higher risk of cancer. One study participant, and former researcher herself, isn't convinced there's a link.


"There's an increase in cancer, it seems, in our whole society, so to say that the people in the study have an increase in cancer, I would just question it," Kathy Ravella told us.

Ravella is now a master gardener, but spent years conducting health studies as a nurse therapist. She just found out she took a placebo in this study for the past five years. She says even though the study didn't show a health benefit for healthy adults, it was still worth conducting the research.

"We've ruled out something now we thought could be helpful, so now people won’t waste their time or their effort taking an aspirin every day," she said.

The study also showed a continued risk for significant bleeding, something we've known can happen when people take aspirin frequently. While it didn't affect a participant's life span, it did show an increased bleeding and hemorrhage risk.

"That's the greatest concern about taking aspirin," Newman told Channel 11. "So people who are at risk for bleeding need to really take that into consideration, whether aspirin is good for them."

It's important to note the study looked at healthy older adults. The study did not look at people who already had strokes or cardiovascular issues. Doctors continue to see benefits of daily aspirin for some patients with heart issues. You should always talk to a doctor before starting or stopping medicine use.